Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond

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Diocese of Richmond

Dioecesis Richmondiensis
MJK50172 Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Richmond, Virginia).jpg
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
Diocese of richmond.png
Country United States
TerritoryCentral and Southern Virginia, as well as the Eastern Shore of Virginia
Ecclesiastical provinceBaltimore
Area36,711 sq mi (95,080 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2015)
236,061 (4.7%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 11, 1820 (199 years ago)
CathedralCathedral of the Sacred Heart
Patron saintSt. Vincent de Paul
Current leadership
BishopBarry C. Knestout
Metropolitan ArchbishopWilliam E. Lori
Diocese of Richmond map 1.jpg

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond (Latin: Dioecesis Richmondiensis) is an episcopal see or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Its current territory encompasses all of central and southern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the Eastern Shore. It is a suffragan diocese of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, from which its territory was taken, and is a constituent of the ecclesiastical province of Baltimore.

As of 2018, there were 241,276 Catholics and 142 parishes that are part of the Diocese of Richmond. The diocese currently has 91 active priests, 41 retired priests, 140 permanent deacons, 7 religious brothers, 181 religious sisters of Catholic religious orders and 31 seminarians serving 139 parishes. There are 28 diocesan Catholic schools in the diocese, with a total enrollment of 8,827 students in 5 high schools and 22 elementary schools.[1]

The diocese's current Bishop is Barry C. Knestout, who was appointed by Pope Francis on December 5, 2017.[2] He was installed to the position on January 12, 2018.[3]


Catholic "church on wheels" in Richmond, 1955

Prior to the American Revolution, few Catholics lived in colonial Virginia. Attempts to found Catholic settlements in Virginia were made by Lord Baltimore in 1629, and Captain George Brent in 1687. In the spring of 1634 Father John Altham, a Jesuit companion of Father Andrew White, the Maryland missionary, laboured amongst some of the Virginia tribes on the south side of the Potomac. Stringent laws were soon enacted in Virginia against Catholics. In 1687 Fathers Edmonds and Raymond were arrested at Norfolk for exercising their priestly functions. During the last quarter of the eighteenth century the few Catholic settlers at Aquia Creek, near the Potomac, were attended by Father John Carroll and other Jesuit missionaries from Maryland.[4]

It was not until the passage of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786 that Catholics were free to worship openly in the commonwealth. Rev. Jean Dubois, afterwards third Bishop of New York, accompanied by a few French priests and with letters of introduction from Lafayette to several prominent Virginia families, came to Norfolk in August, 1791, where he laboured a few months. Proceeding to Richmond towards the end of the year, he offered in the courtroom of the new State House, by invitation of the General Assembly, the first Mass ever said in the Capital City.[4] James Monroe served as his host until Father Dubois rented a house in Richmond near a major bridge and opened a school to teach French, classics and arithmetic.[5] Patrick Henry helped the priest learn English. For two years Dubois mostly celebrated mass in rented rooms or at the homes of the town's few Catholic families.[6]

According to tradition, at an early date, probably at the time of the Declaration of Independence, Alexandria had a log chapel with an unknown resident priest. Rev. John Thayer of Boston was stationed there in 1794. Rev. Francis Neale, who in 1796 constructed at Alexandria a brick church, erected fourteen years later a more suitable church where Fathers Anthony Kohlmann, and Benedict Joseph Fenwick, afterwards second Bishop of Boston, frequently officiated. About 1796 Rev. James Bushe began the erection of a church at Norfolk. He was succeeded by were the Very Rev. Leonard Neale, afterwards Archbishop of Baltimore. The Diocese of Richmond was canonically erected by Pope Pius VII on July 11, 1820.[4]

The new Diocese of Wheeling was formed by splitting off the western part of this diocese in 1850, and that same year, this diocese received the small area which had been retroceded from the District of Columbia in 1846. The Civil War led to formation of the state of West Virginia, but the boundary between that state and Virginia did not coincide with the boundary of the Wheeling and Richmond dioceses. The two eastern-shore counties were transferred to the new Diocese of Wilmington in 1868, leaving Virginia split between three dioceses. In 1974, Virginia and West Virginia dioceses were realigned so that West Virginia was a diocese by itself and Virginia had the Richmond diocese and the new Arlington diocese, both in their entirety.

On February 13, 2019 Bishop Knestout released a list of 42 priests who had "credible and substantiated" accusations of sexual abuse made against them. The list covers allegations dating from the 1950s to the most recent substantiated allegation in 1993.[7][8] Among those listed was future Bishop of Memphis, Carroll Dozier was accused of committing acts of sex abuse while serving in the Diocese of Richmond.[9]

The Diocese of Richmond has seen an increase in the number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood.[when?] According to Rev. Michael Boehling, the typical candidate is in his early to mid-20s, and college graduate with a degree in history, science or mathematics. "They are articulate and bright, well-rounded individuals who are mature for their age,"[10]


Bishops of Richmond[edit]

  1. Patrick Kelly (1820–1822), appointed Bishop of Waterford and Lismore
  2. Richard Vincent Whelan (1841–1850), appointed Bishop of Wheeling
  3. John McGill (1850–1872)
  4. James Gibbons (1872–1877), appointed Archbishop of Baltimore (elevated to Cardinal in 1886)
  5. John Joseph Keane (1878–1888), appointed Rector of The Catholic University of America and Archbishop of Dubuque
  6. Augustine Van de Vyver (1889–1911)
  7. Denis Joseph O'Connell (1912–1926)
  8. Andrew James Louis Brennan (1926–1945)
  9. Peter Leo Ireton (1945–1958)
  10. John Joyce Russell (1958–1973)
  11. Walter Francis Sullivan (1974–2003)
  12. Francis Xavier DiLorenzo (2004–2017)
  13. Barry Christopher Knestout (2018–present)

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops[edit]

Notable people[edit]

  • Servant of God Francis J. Parater (1897–1920), seminarian and candidate for canonization

Knights of Columbus[edit]

The Knights of Columbus has several councils in the Richmond Diocese. The Knights serve parish and communities throughout both dioceses in the Commonwealth. One of the best known services is the KOVAR drive which raises money for assisting Virginians with intellectual disabilities.[11]

High schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diocesan Statistics", Diocese of Richmond
  2. ^ "Bishop Barry Knestout tapped to lead the diocese of Richmond". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  3. ^ "Bishop-designate Barry C. Knestout". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  4. ^ a b c Magri, Francis Joseph. "Diocese of Richmond", The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 27 June 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Fogarty, Gerald, Commonwealth Catholicism: a history of the Catholic Church in Virginia (University of Notre Dame Press, 2001) pp. 25-36
  6. ^ Hayes, Patrick. "John Dubois." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Aug. 2014 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "Virginia's two dioceses release lists of clergy credibly accused of abuse". Catholic News Herald. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. 15 February 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  8. ^ Poulter, Amy. "Richmond Catholic diocese publishes list of 42 priests with 'credible' abuse allegations", Daily Press, February 14, 2019
  9. ^
  10. ^ Sheler, Jeff. "Catholic Diocese of Richmond rebounds from past", The Virginian-Pilot, October 20, 2013
  11. ^ "KOVAR". Virginia Knights of Columbus. Retrieved 2016-02-29.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Richmond". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°32′50.8″N 77°27′07.7″W / 37.547444°N 77.452139°W / 37.547444; -77.452139